Gunnebo Business Solutions

Becoming Ethan

These days there is a lot of publicity about transitioning from one gender to the other and it is quite positive. As way of introduction, transitioning is the process of changing one’s gender presentation and/or sex characteristics to accord with one’s inner sense of gender identity. Non-binary people’s internal sense of gender identity is neither solely female nor male. For transgender and transsexual people, this process commonly involves reassignment therapy, which could hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery, with their gender identity being opposite that of their birth-assigned sex and gender. Transitioning might involve medical treatment, but it does not always involve it. Cross-dressers, drag queens, and drag kings tend not to transition, since their gender presentations are often only adopted temporarily.

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Transition begins with a personal decision to transition, prompted by the feeling that one’s gender identity does not match the sex that one was assigned at birth. One of the most significant parts of transitioning for many transgender people is coming out for the first time. Transitioning is a process, not an event, that can take anywhere between several months and several years. Transitioning generally begins where the person feels comfortable: for some, this begins with their family with whom they are intimate and reaches to friends later or may begin with friends first and family later. Sometimes transitioning is at different levels between different spheres of life. For example, someone may transition far with family and friends before even coming out at work.

Growing up, my friend Emma always felt like a part of her was always hidden, even when she tried to fit into people’s expectations as best she could. Dating boys because this was expected, wearing pink dresses to comfort the family. When she eventually accepted who she was and made the decision to transition, there was a prompt improvement in his self-image, confidence, and mental health. The growth he experienced since transitioning has been extremely reviving since I was with him every step of the way. His initial transition wasn’t easy, and there were a lot of potholes and obstacles along the way. To make the change less difficult I advised him to talk to and read about as many trans people as possible, and learn from their successes and failures.

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Luckily Emma has a father and uncle that has supported her, probably even before she understood that she is not a girl, but a boy. She confided in me that she has felt like a boy from her childhood, but trying to keep up with expectations and family appearances she took the role as the younger daughter.

So, the girl is a boy. In conservative US, probably not a straight forward transition.

He fought with his true self for some time. Cutting the hair short, tucking in the breasts, getting tattoos. His interest in all the things considered male and it must have been challenging to find common ground with the few female friends that stuck around. It got to a point that he had to have boyfriends he wasn’t attracted to just to throw his mother off his back and not stick our like a sore thumb. Looking back, it’s sad to realize that his mother were one of the biggest challenges he had to overcome; transitioning would’ve been a lot more easier with her support.

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When he got older he had a period transitioning from straight to lesbian. Dating girls for some time was a relief. Still, he felt that he needed to be sure. Over and over, he asked himself if he was more as male or female.

If you’re in a relationship, it is extremely difficult to predict with certainty what course the relationship will take—but it will be affected. I hate having to say this one. He and his partner were really committed, despite mentally preparing themselves after reading a lot about how often couples break up when a partner transitions, and I think they toughed it out for a while. But neither of them was truly prepared for how deeply the changes would affect them.

Wherever you are and however you look, you are still the same person. When I talk to young trans people, this is the biggest thing I stress. Transitioning is a way to live your truth more authentically, but your baggage will still come with you. For all its challenges, transitioning is the best thing Ethan(Emma) did for himself. I am grateful he found in me an older and wiser confidant who told him that yes, it is totally all worth it to look in the mirror and recognize yourself as you should be.

The people that push you to prove this aspect of your existence will seldom accept any facts, and will skate around the multitude of flaws in their very repetitive and hollow arguments. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with friends or family if they are not supportive. It will be awful to lose someone you’ve loved a long time, but keeping a negative influence in you will do more harm to you than losing them.

Diversity is important and admittedly there has been progress in creating a world people realize that differences do not harm anyone, and thus creating an atmosphere for people to be expressive of their differences. Tradition is delaying evolution, we need girls, boys, trans, intersex, lesbians and gays with their individual perspectives and unique ideas to help us evolve and create a better world. I’m glad I have known Ethan and being able to support him all the way to the man he is.

If you want to know more about inclusion and transgender, please reach out to me: bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com

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